While studying at UCLA, I went through a bit of a dancehall phase. I was really into all aspects of dancehall, primarily the “dancing” part of it. And by coincidence, I was enrolled in Afro-American Sociolinguistics course or for the laymen, an “examination of Black English”, where I had the chance to thoroughly examine dancehall culture. Apart from all the heady topics we delved into related to hip hop, the English language, and Black history, we had the opportunity to research and write about tangential topics, one of which was Black culture on the global level. Consequently, my group thesis touched on the topic of Jamaican music and its influence on American/European/Pan-Asian culture.
I wrote about the Jamaican music and dance scene in Japan, and the crossbreeding of two significantly different ethnic groups. The report wasn’t all superficial (consisting merely of YOUTUBE clips of Junko Kudo, the first Japanese Jamaican dancehall queen), it was an in depth sociological analysis of identity as determined by community, history, and socioeconomics. And in wanting to appear erudite and informed, I did some undercover work at random Japanese dancehall clubs around LA. I had a few obligatory cocktails in the name of higher education. I also witnessed the huge effect dancehall has had on people whose musical roots might be from left field, whose cultural references derive from mass media, but whose enthusiasm is an honest response to the music. I impressively did some rumpshaking and p-popping myself. Ok. Impressive only to myself, perhaps.
Anyway, here’s my longwinded explanation of why I’m excited about these Lovemade-sponsored Dancehall dance classes: Dancehall dancing feels like an anomaly, especially when juxtaposed with what we (Americans) define as acceptable, “appropriate” dancing. Remember the no-grinding-rules at the Middle School dances? Dancehall dancing appears very sexual and provocative, but transpired as such through the condemnation of Black music by our conservative counterparts. It doesn’t help that a lot of hip-hop music videos pair these dance moves with hyper-sexualized lyrics and intention.
Dancehall is energetic and vibrant, and flashy (some of the outfits worn at parties are wild). Dancehall celebrates Jamaican culture, and sadly, the currency of material, success, and wealth that much of Jamaica is devoid of, that ultimately becomes the driving force for the ghetto youth. So Dancehall innately becomes a survival tactic and undoubtedly, a nod to African culture.
My understanding of Jamaican and dancehall culture is primarily through scientific rhetoric, but I’m eager to see what my body will do when the music gets blasted and I start feeling the good vibes.